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Stills from Ad Astra, The Joker and The King – three of the most highly anticipated premieres at the Venice Film Festival.

Venice Film Festival Opens

The 76th Venice Film Festival opened yesterday and continues through September 7th. For the past several years it has emerged as the world’s most important proving ground for movies. From “Gravity” and “First Man” to “Roma,” “A Star Is Born” and “La La Land,” the Venice Film Festival represents the true kickoff of the fall movie season and the most reliable launching pad for the annual crop of award contenders.

Last year saw Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma take the top prize, beating out the likes of The Favorite, First Man and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. While Venice does not always predict who will take home the coveted Best Picture Oscar, the competition for the Gold Lion prize gives a good early indication of the arthouse films that could go the distance. The oldest film festival in the world, Venice has always presented exciting new work from all corners of the globe. This year’s lineup is no exception. Here are the most anticipated films that are premiering.

“Ad Astra” (James Gray) Co-stars Brad Pitt alongside Tommy Lee Jones in a space odyssey. Pitt plays a man journeying through space to track down his missing father while humanity is under threat.

Director Noah Baumbach again teams up with Netflix for “Marriage Story.” Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson play a couple in a compassionate portrait of a marriage breaking up and of a family staying together.

“The Laundromat” follows a woman who unearths a case of insurance fraud while on vacation, only to discover it traces to a vast global offshore tax scheme which hides criminals and enriches politicians.

Todd Phillips’ “Joker” stars Joaquin Phoenix as the sinister clown. The movie tells the story of the disturbed loner and Batman nemesis, who seeks to turn the world upside down and drag it into chaos.

“Giants Being Lonely” tells the fictional story of three high school seniors as they brace for the challenges of the real world. Told against a baseball-centric backdrop, this coming of age drama is almost exclusively cast with unknowns.

Netflix is behind “The King,” a huge medieval epic directed by David Michôd; an adaptation of three different Shakespeare plays, it follows the life of King Henry V.